Hard courts are very negative for the body. I know the sport is a business and creating these courts is easier than clay or grass, but I am 100% sure it is wrong.
— Rafael Nadal


In the 1980s three countries hinged their tennis future to hard courts: Australia, the UK, and the United States. Once upon a time these three countries virtually dominated tennis. But the world has changed and it’s the clay-court countries that dominate the upper ranks of tennis now. Hard court surfaces have been slowed down to promote longer points. String technology has evolved to provide players with added spin and control. The result is that the power and speed game of the 1980s is less relevant today.

It’s the well-rounded player who has the mental savvy and physical skills to develop points and deploy a full range of shots who will succeed. The best way to develop these skills is to train on clay court surfaces, particularly during the formative years.  Because champions are groomed on clay court surfaces. It’s that simple. Of the 103 men who have reached the top 10 since rankings were kept, 91 of them grew up on clay (based on rankings from 1973–2008). 

Clay leaves players more physically and emotionally satisfied than other surfaces. The physical satisfaction comes from playing long points and long matches without over-stressing the knees, back, and lower extremities. The emotional satisfaction comes from the thinking, creating, and tactical responding that goes into each point and each match.

  • The softer, sliding nature of clay protects the body from injury.

  • Longer points and longer matches help players develop their strength, fitness, and endurance.

  • The slippery footing teaches players to slide while maintaining balance and control.

  • More shots come back on clay and players learn to be patient.

  • It is extremely difficult to end a point and to do so a player must learn a wide variety of shots, spins, and angles.

  • Long points require the player to make more decisions per point resulting in improved decision making.

  • Long points require more mental endurance, creating greater mental toughness.

  • Occasional bad bounces make players’ strokes more adaptable.

  • Adjusting to losing a point because of a bad bounce or loss of footing helps players mature emotionally.

  • Conditions on clay can be fast or slow depending on the day. Players learn to recognize this and adapt.